Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, has announced that Saudi Arabia has deployed 95,000 security forces to maintain order during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
In comments carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Interior Minister announced that Saudi Arabia will use “sophisticated techniques [and] modern equipment” to ensure the safety of Hajj pilgrims, adding that the 95,000 security officers will be augmented by additional forces from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the National Guard, and the Presidency of the General Intelligence.
“Maintaining the safety and security of pilgrims requires us to take all the possibilities seriously, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia witnessed a fierce terrorist campaign in the recent past which did not exclude the holy sites. With the grace of Allah, we were able to confront this terrorist campaign, limit its risks, and spare the country and people its evils,” he added.
Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, who also serves as Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, called on pilgrims to perform Hajj with “tranquility,” leaving their political and sectarian differences aside.
“The Hajj is not a field for political conflicts and sectarian differences, taking into consideration the narrow space and congestion of pilgrims, where any kind of unrest could lead to a disaster,” he said.
“Therefore, the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques calls on all pilgrims to adhere to the performance of their rituals and stay away from anything that distracts them from the Hajj and puts them at risk,” he added.
Commenting on the expansion projects being undertaken at the holy sites, the Saudi Interior Minister said: “We have followed the ongoing project by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca. We are committed to decreasing the number of pilgrims this year due to these construction projects.”
“We expect the capacity of the Mataf (circumambulation area) to be doubled when the project is completed,” he added.
As for how these projects could affect pilgrims, the Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee said: “We have confidence in the citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom to take the exceptional circumstances during this Hajj season into consideration, committing to Hajj regulations, and gaining the required permits needed for those who want to perform Hajj rituals.”
Electronic gates have been installed at the entrance to Mecca to control the flow of pilgrims and make sure that only those with Hajj permits are allowed access, the Minister added.
Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz inspected Hajj facilities and authorities on Wednesday in preparation for this year’s pilgrimage. He examined special contingency forces for the Hajj, in addition to security forces.